There is a theory that a band’s sound grows as the venues they play grow in size, height, and splendour. Artists who begin their careers as acoustic singer-songwriters evolve into stadium rock as their ticket sales go from filling theaters to selling out arenas. Taylor Swift went from sitting on a stool with her guitar at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville to running across stages with a cordless mic and a symphony behind her.
Vancouver-based dark-pop band The Belle Game’s new album, Fear Nothing, provides further proof for this theory. While their beautiful debut album Ritual Tradition Habit made sense in dimly lit bars like The Biltmore Cabaret, this new album demands high ceilings, balconies and sound systems that wouldn’t even fit through the door of your average Main Street venue. This album takes up so much space, both sonically and emotionally. Where their debut album is bitter and sweet, Fear Nothing is painful and euphoric. It has been four years since Ritual Tradition Habit, and this album shows both how much these accomplished musicians have grown and the scars they’ve acquired along the way.
It would be easy to call lead singer Andrea Lo’s voice “ethereal.” Fear Nothing opens with the track “Shine,” in which Lo begins in a falsetto cloaked in dreamy reverb. But it immediately becomes apparent that Lo’s vocals are powerful and grounded, her lyrics are heavy and blunt, and there is nothing about her that is delicate or intangible. The essence she brings to this album is clearly influenced by both Knowles sisters’ 2016 projects. There are rhythmic and thematic parallels between Fear Nothing and Beyonce’s Lemonade, especially in songs like “Low” and “High,” which document the dark and light in a complicated sexual relationship. Honest, self-aware songs like “Bring Me” and “Spaces” are reminiscent of Solange’s “A Seat at the Table,” in which Lo sings “[it] feels like I’m melting inside, feels like I know it’s alright.”
This atmospheric album is much more human than divine, with physical words like “touch” and “fuck” repeated throughout the album’s lyrics. The hip hop-inspired rhythms paired with distorted synths and guitars, created by the enormously talented Katrina Jones, Adam Nanji and Alex Andrew, pull you into a dreamlike state, and then throw you off kilter as soon as you get comfortable. Fear Nothing is primal, sensual and, of course, fearless. This sophomore album is a brilliant collaboration between four unique artists, and proves that in 2017, The Belle Game know how to take up the space they deserve.